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March 8 Endorsement

Yes on Measure N

It sensibly removes from the City Charter rules on campaign contributions and candidates' spending that are unconstitutional.

February 21, 2011

What if Los Angeles put something in the City Charter and then discovered that it was unconstitutional? It would probably remove it from the charter.

That's what the city is asking voters to do in approving Measure N on the March 8 ballot. You might ask why the city government can't just do this itself and save you the effort of parsing yet another ballot measure. But it's the law: Any change in the charter must be approved by the voters.

At issue are three provisions in the charter governing campaign contributions and candidates' spending. Two limit personal contributions to an independent expenditure committee to $500 in city elections and to $1,000 in L.A. Unified School District elections. The third — the so-called wealthy candidate provision — requires candidates who self-finance their campaigns with more than $30,000 to provide advance notice when they are about to spend those funds. It also allows opponents of self-financed candidates to solicit and receive funds above usual contribution limits, until they have raised as much money as the self-financed candidate spent from personal funds.

The city attorney has deemed these provisions unlawful in light of recent court rulings, including two by the U.S. Supreme Court. The city no longer enforces them. So what difference does it make if they're still in the charter? The city attorney says it opens the city to lawsuits from people trying to either challenge or enforce the provisions. In fact, the city has already dealt with some litigation on campaign-finance issues.

If Measure N is defeated, the provisions will stay in the charter. The city will still not enforce them, and it will remain vulnerable to lawsuits.

This amendment sensibly reconciles the City Charter with the U.S. Constitution. Vote yes on Measure N.

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